TAMPA, Fla. — Council members want to make it clear they have the final say for any department head hires moving forward after the contentious appointment and controversial resignation of Tampa police chief Mary O’Connor.
In a unanimous vote on Thursday, the Tampa city council approved a proposal to change city charter.
Currently, the mayor appoints the position and the council must give final approval. But that approval has been viewed as a mere formality.
However, after O’Connor’s appointment caused a split in the council – with several members voicing concerns about her arrest from decades before – they now want to clarify charter language to say the mayor’s pick is not an appointment but rather a nomination subject to their final approval.
The proposal would also make clear that the position would be interim for the first six months.
“The public is demanding to be a part of the next police chief choice,” said councilmember Lynn Hurtay. “I want to absolutely approve someone for the work they’ve done and, you know what, rarely is it an issue.”
O’Connor resigned in December after body camera video surfaced of her flashing her badge to a Pinellas County deputy after being pulled while riding with her husband in an unlicensed golf cart on a public street.
The city’s director of economic development Nicole Travis expressed concern the proposal could discourage the city from recruiting talented people if they couldn't start until after confirmation.
Councilmember Guido Maniscalco defended his support of the proposal, saying he didn’t see it as “strongarming or tying the hands of the mayor.”
“If I were in that position I would say it’s a checks and balances system,” Maniscalco said.
Mayor Jane Castor said she believes the public deserves a thoughtful and deliberative process for amending Tampa's charter
In a statement, her office said she "will carefully review the proposals and discuss them with each council member before deciding how she will proceed."
Castor has two weeks to either approve or veto the proposal. Council can override a veto.
Ultimately, if approved by the mayor, it would be up to voters to decide in the upcoming city election in March.